Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

The changing face of Family Justice

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In the 2011-2012 edition of the book (pp 182-3), I summarise the recommendations of the Norgrove on reforms to the family justice system, in particular to reduce the unacceptable delays current blighting the system.

The Government’s response was published in Feb 2012, and its main conclusions have been noted in this blog.

There have been two recent further developments.

First, the creation of the proposed Family Justice Board has been taken a step forward with the appointment of its first Chair. Interestingly, the appointee is David Norgrove, the author of the original report. This makes sense – he clearly has a vision of how the family justice system should develop, and his appointment should allow him to steer the recommendations he made for the reform of the system.

For the annoucement, see http://www.justice.gov.uk/news/features/family-justice-board-chair-appointed

The second development comes from the judiciary. Following publication of the Norgrove report, Mr Justice Ryder was asked to lead a programme of consultation and to make recommendations for the ways in which judicial reform would assist the delivery of Norgrove’s objectives. At the end of July 2012, the Ryder Report was published.

He states that reforms will come in two stages. Stage 1 will focus on the better management of the court resources that are dealing with family matters. These measures are designed to ensure that the  proposals currently before Parliament (in the Crime and Courts Bill) for the creation of a unified Family Court are properly implemented. He hopes that these administrative changes will be in place by mid-2013.

Stage 2 of the reforms will be based on principles set out in the Children and Families Bill, which is likely to receive Parliamentary approval in 2014. It is likely that the Bill that the second Bill will deal with the Government’s published desire to limit care cases to 26 weeks save in judicially excepted circumstances, to describe a more focused scrutiny of the final care plan,  extend interim and supervision care orders without monthly renewal for six months and implement the Government’s proposals in private law relating to
shared parenting, child arrangement orders and contact enforcement.

Ryder argues that  stage 2 will require judges to take greater responsibility for case management to reduce the delays that Norgrove so criticised.

Ryder stresses that for both reform stages there will need to be specialist judicial training to ensure that judges fully understand their new powers and responsibilities.

Full details of Mr Justice Ryder’s recommendations are at: http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/Resources/JCO/Documents/Reports/ryderj_recommendations_final.pdf

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Written by lwtmp

August 9, 2012 at 8:31 am

Posted in chapter 7

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